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Bowl History: Notre Dame vs. Big 12

Notre Dame faces Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl, so we look back at the program's bowl history against the Big 12

Notre Dame will meet Oklahoma State on January 1st in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, the first-ever game between the two programs. That means there isn't a series history to break down, but there is a long tradition of bowl matchups against the Big 12.

Notre Dame's last bowl victory came against Iowa State in the 2019 Camping World Bowl, which was its last matchup against a Big 12 program. 

The Big 12 conference has seen its fair share of upheaval over the past three decades. Originally known as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association before growing to the Big 8 by 1957. 

Its current form – the Big 12 – was established in 1994 when Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor broke away from the now-defunct Southwest Conference and joined the Big 8 schools – Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.

The new Big 12 established itself as one of the premier football conferences in the country after beginning play during the 1996 season, with three member schools capturing national championships between 1997-2005. However, Nebraska left for the Big Ten and Colorado left for the Pac-12 in 2011, and the following year, Missouri and Texas A&M bolted for the SEC. The conference stabilized for a time with the addition of TCU (Mountain Wes) and West Virginia (Big East).

The Big 12 is about to go through another major facelift, but that's another topic for another day.

NOTRE DAME BOWL RESULTS VS. THE BIG 12

Note – this list includes matchups against teams who were in the Big 8/Big 12 at the time of the game or are currently in the Big 12. The games are listed by season and not the date of the game.

1969 – Texas 21 Notre Dame 17 (Cotton Bowl)

Ara Parseghian’s Notre Dame team made the first postseason appearance for the university since the 1925 Rose Bowl when they faced undefeated and top-ranked Texas in the Cotton Bowl. The Fighting Irish jumped out to a 10-0 lead, led 10-7 at halftime, and held a narrow 17-14 advantage after a Joe Theismann touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. However, Texas drove down the field and scored the winning touchdown with just 1:08 remaining.

The Longhorns were voted the unanimous national champions after their undefeated season. Notre Dame received a lot of credit from the national media for its gutsy performance and would actually rise in the polls following the game, ending the season ranked fifth.

1970 – Notre Dame 24 Texas 11 (Cotton Bowl)

The Irish would get their revenge on the Longhorns the following year. Texas entered the Cotton Bowl rematch riding a 30-game winning streak and ranked first in the country, seeking a second consecutive national title. After Texas opened the scoring with a field goal, Notre Dame ripped off 24 straight points behind the right arm of Joe Theismann and a stingy Notre Dame defense. The Irish forced six Longhorn turnovers and held Texas scoreless in the second half.

After the victory, Notre Dame would finish second in the polls to Nebraska.

1972 – Nebraska 40 Notre Dame 6 (Orange Bowl)

Notre Dame would get a shot at Nebraska in the Orange Bowl two years later – but may have bitten off more than they could chew. Nebraska was led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers and entered as a two-touchdown favorite. Behind three touchdowns from Rodgers, the Cornhuskers scored the first 40 points of the game before a late Notre Dame touchdown pass by Tom Clements prevented a shutout.

The loss wrapped up the only three-loss season of Ara Parseghian’s Notre Dame career, but the Irish wouldn’t be down long. Parseghian would capture his second national title at the helm in 1973 with a legendary win over Bear Bryant’s Alabama team in the Sugar Bowl.

1977 – Notre Dame 38 Texas 10 (Cotton Bowl)

Notre Dame entered the Cotton Bowl ranked fifth in the country and a seven-point underdog to the undefeated and top-ranked Texas Longhorns. After an early loss to Ole Miss in Week 2, previously third-string quarterback Joe Montana had come off the bench in Week 3 to lead a comeback victory over Purdue. Montana never gave the job back, and the Irish came to Dallas riding a nine-game winning streak.

Notre Dame seized control of the game with a 21-point second quarter and led 24-10 at halftime before burying Texas in the second half. Vagas Ferguson had three touchdowns and Terry Eurick two, and the Notre Dame defense kept Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell out of the end zone. With the win over #1 Texas and losses by #2 Oklahoma and #4 Michigan, Notre Dame jumped over #3 Alabama and was voted the 1977 national champions, giving Dan Devine his national title.

1988 – Notre Dame 34 West Virginia 21 (Fiesta Bowl)

Notre Dame entered the Fiesta Bowl with an 11-0 record and ranked first in the nation. Their opponent, West Virginia, was enjoying one of the best seasons in program history and was also 11-0. Notre Dame dominated the line of scrimmage, putting up 242 yards on the ground while holding West Virginia to just 108 yards rushing on 37 carries. The Fighting Irish jumped out to a 16-0 lead after a Billy Hackett field goal and rushing touchdowns from Anthony Johnson and Rodney Culver and led 23-6 at halftime. Quarterback Tony Rice (who had two passing touchdowns) and linebacker Frank Stams were named the co-MVPs as the Irish claimed the program’s eleventh – and sadly most recent – national title.

With the victory, the Irish claimed victories over four top-ten teams in the 1988 season - #1 Miami, #2 USC, #3 West Virginia, and #9 Michigan – or, as many victories as the now-LSU coach had over top-ten opponents in twelve seasons at Notre Dame.

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1989 – Notre Dame 21 Colorado 6 (Orange Bowl)

Notre Dame had just seen its 23-game winning streak come to an end against Miami in the Orange Bowl in the 1989 regular season finale and took on the new #1 team in the country back in the Orange Bowl just a few weeks later. Behind two touchdowns from Anthony Johnson and another from Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, the Irish cruised to a 21-6 victory. Notre Dame rushed for 279 yards and forced three Colorado turnovers, as the Irish tried to stake a claim for a second consecutive national title with the impressive victory.

However, the pollsters went with Miami on the strength of the Hurricanes’ earlier head-to-head victory over the Irish, and Notre Dame ended the season ranked second. Apparently, the pollsters decided that must have been the wrong decision, because just a few seasons later they awarded Florida State the 1993 national championship despite the fact that Notre Dame beat the Seminoles during the regular season.

1990 – Colorado 10 Notre Dame 9 (Orange Bowl)

Colorado claimed the school’s only national title following a 10-9 victory over Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl following the 1990 season. The game was a rematch of the previous year. The Irish entered the game ranked fifth, while Colorado was ranked first. Both teams struggled to move the ball, and though Notre Dame took the lead on a second quarter Ricky Watters touchdown, the extra point was blocked. That would prove to be a pivotal play as with the Notre Dame clinging to a narrow 9-3 lead in the third quarter, Eric Bieniemy scored to give the Buffaloes a 10-9 advantage.

However, this game is most remembered for its controversial ending. All-American Raghib “Rocket” Ismail returned a punt 92 yards with 43 seconds remaining for what should have been the game-winning score, but the score was called back on a controversial clipping penalty, giving Colorado the win.

1994 – Colorado 41 Notre Dame 24 (Fiesta Bowl)

Behind the right arm of Kordell Stewart and the legs of Rashaan Salaam, fourth-ranked Colorado blew out unranked Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, the third bowl matchup between the two programs in six seasons. The Irish entered the game with a 6-4-1 record and probably did not deserve such a high bowl bid. Colorado led 31-10 at halftime and though Ron Powlus threw a touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 31-17 in the third quarter, the Buffaloes responded with the next ten points to seal the victory.

2019 – Notre Dame 33 Iowa State 9 (Camping World Bowl)

Notre Dame dominated Iowa State in the 2019 Camping World Bowl to finish the season with an 11-2 record. The Irish entered the year with high expectations after a 2018 College Football Playoff berth but stumbled against Georgia and were blown out by Michigan. However, behind a balanced offensive performance with 247 passing yards from Ian Book, 135 yards on the ground from Tony Jones Jr., and 146 receiving yards from Chase Claypool, they ended the year on a positive note, setting the stage for a second CFP berth in 2020. 

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